Death-penalty appeals will still go before the Privy Council in London, not the Caribbean Court of Justice. Former Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide said yesterday that there could be a long way to go before hangings could be resumed. Capital cases, he pointed out, will still go before the Privy Council, because they are constitutional matters. "The issue of hanging is one that will not be adjudicated by the CCJ, as long as the CCJ is restricted to hearing criminal appeals," de la Bastide explained. "When someone challenges an execution, that person does so on a constitutional motion as it is alleged that their constitutional rights are being infringed."
De la Bastide retired last year as the first president of the CCJ. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced in Parliament that the London-based Privy Council would be abolished as the country's highest court of appeal in criminal matters. Those matters will now be referred to the CCJ. The country is expected to save millions of dollars when criminal matters go before the CCJ, said de la Bastide. He said it was no longer necessary to pay attorneys from England, whose fees were normally very high. "It would definitely be much cheaper," he said. "You are paying English lawyers in pounds and some of those lawyers who are silk charge very large fees." Admitting there were local attorneys whose fees were very high, de la Bastide said they were "nothing" when compared to English attorneys.
"There are local attorneys who charge high fees, but they are definitely not the same," he said. "In the civil appeals, you need English solicitors as well as English barristers, whereas you can use lawyers from the region before the CCJ." De la Bastide noted that there would no longer be costs for litigants having to travel to England, and the cost of hotel and accommodation would also be saved. "In the Privy Council, even if you win a civil case and are awarded costs, that does not include the cost to recover hotel and accommodation expenses," he said. He said he expected regional judges to be paid either in TT or EC currency. De la Bastide paid tribute to the judges and staff of the CCJ for their dedication and creating public confidence in the court.